Fischer – Spassky – Game 21 – Take a Bow!

Mr Fischer, take a bow!

Curtain Final

The Final Curtain

This is the final and decisive game from the Fischer - Spassky 1972 match.

Fischer's style of cramping all Spassky's activity shines through once more as we are treated to another counter intuitive set of brilliant moves by old RJF.

The sad tragedy is that after this he played no more competitive chess until 1992 in the much disputed game in Yugoslavia.

The Game

[Event "World Championship 28th"] [Site "Reykjavik"] [Date "1972.08.31"] [Round "21"] [White "Spassky, Boris V"] [Black "Fischer, Robert James"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B46"] [WhiteElo "2660"] [BlackElo "2785"] [PlyCount "96"] [EventDate "1972.07.11"] [EventType "match"] [EventRounds "21"] [EventCountry "ISL"] [Source "ChessBase"] 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 a6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Be3 Nf6 7. Bd3 d5 (7... Nb4 {looks good to snag Bd3 but white can ignore it with a good game.} 8. O-O Nxd3 9. cxd3 d6 10. Qa4+ b5 11. Qb3 Bd7 12. f3 Be7 13. Rfc1 {and black is cramped.}) 8. exd5 exd5 9. O-O Bd6 10. Nxc6 $6 {The d pawn on its own was a good target. The c-d pawn combo now becomes a tactical device.} (10. Re1 O-O 11. h3 {and white enjoys a small advantage with a clear plan - to undermine and win d5}) 10... bxc6 11. Bd4 O-O 12. Qf3 Be6 13. Rfe1 c5 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. Qxf6 gxf6 {the pawn structure looks bad but black has good plans - occupy b and e files and use the two bishops to gain control of key squares. Whilst white has the better structure it's very hard to occupy any space whereas black has more than half the board to enjoy (ranks 3-8)} 16. Rad1 Rfd8 17. Be2 Rab8 18. b3 c4 $1 {having the b file as a focus and the knight looking vulnerable, Fischer completely ruins his pawn structure in exchange for a tactically sound advantage} 19. Nxd5 {A horrible concession to make but the alternatives are no better} (19. bxc4 Bb4 20. Nxd5 (20. Rd3 d4) 20... Bxe1 21. Rxe1 Rb2) 19... Bxd5 20. Rxd5 Bxh2+ {Of course going into it but the technique is very strong from here.} 21. Kxh2 Rxd5 22. Bxc4 Rd2 23. Bxa6 Rxc2 {Black is going to win more pawns or force the exchange of rooks, leading to a won ending.} 24. Re2 Rxe2 25. Bxe2 Rd8 26. a4 Rd2 27. Bc4 Ra2 28. Kg3 Kf8 29. Kf3 Ke7 30. g4 f5 {To eliminate a strong pawn structure} 31. gxf5 (31. g5 f6 32. gxf6+ Kxf6 {and black has a passed h pawn}) 31... f6 {against a white bishop, getting the pawns on dark squares} 32. Bg8 h6 33. Kg3 Kd6 34. Kf3 Ra1 35. Kg2 Ke5 36. Be6 Kf4 37. Bd7 Rb1 38. Be6 Rb2 39. Bc4 Ra2 40. Be6 h5 41. Bd7 h4 42. b4 Kg4 43. Kg1 h3 44. Bb5 {to prevent Rb1 mate ideas} (44. a5 Ra1+ 45. Kh2 Rf1 46. f3+ Kh4 47. Bb5 Rf2+ 48. Kg1 Kg3 49. a6 h2+ 50. Kh1 Rg2) 44... Rb2 45. a5 Rxb4 46. Bd3 Rb3 47. Bc4 Rc3 48. Bb5 Rc5 {with an easy win} 0-1

Key Lessons from the Game?

We would like to focus on three particular ideas from this game which are quite instructive:
  1. Think outside the Box
  2. Two Bishops can be better than one
  3. Know your endings

Think outside the box

Fischer allows two cardinal sins in this game 1. Splitting his pawns up and 2. playing c4, destroying his dynamic centre.

  • The beauty of the split pawns lies in the dynamism of the resulting position. The queens are off and the two bishops and rooks own the board.
  • The ...c4 break was based on a well calculated tactical point - Spassky had to give up an exchange or face ruin but it's a deep calculation and would be missed by lesser players!

Two Bishops can be better than one

The result of the exchanges on f6 meant Fischer's pawns were in tatters. However the bishops were able to control so many key squares and prevent Spassky's rooks ever getting into the game.

This shows the sheer depth of Fischer's chess brilliance. Many good players simply would not accept the pawn weakness.

Know your endings

Going an exchange up is one thing, knowing how to convert it is another. Fischer, like all great World Champions really knew his onions when it came to endings. This put the score at 12.5 - 8.5 and gave the title to Fischer.

All Games from the 1972 World Championship

Re-live the drama of Reykjavik! The entire 1972 game collection is available here.